The second and final DLC expansion for the acclaimed RPG The Outer Worlds, Murder on Eridanos is framed as a detective murder mystery much like the previous expansion, Peril on Gorgon. This runs the risk of making the expansion feel rote, but Obsidian succeeded in crafting a story and world that feels distinct yet still appropriate within the game’s universe. But even just on its own, Murder on Eridanos is a remarkably solid expansion that remains consistently engaging from beginning to end.
The most immediately attractive aspect of the DLC is Eridanos itself. Since Eridanos is a gas planet, all landscapes and settlements are built on enormous platforms suspended high in the air, and this concept lends itself well to compelling art design. It is hard not to stop every once in a while and take a gander at the enormous thrusters keeping the platforms afloat or the long bridges that convey a fantastic sense of scale. Eridanos also makes great use of color; the environments heavily incorporate pinks and purples into their design, which effectively communicate the area’s artificiality and surface-level appeal. The buildings and settlements of Eridanos really lean into this design choice. The Distillation Station in particular looks like a Willy Wonka-esque pseudo-paradise, which perfectly conveys its role within the story. Obsidian really went above and beyond in making Eridanos feel like an appealing, yet slightly off-putting place.
The Outer Worlds as a whole heavily features themes of consumerism and corporate cynicism, and Murder on Eridanos takes these themes to the next level. Several elements of the story evidently play into these themes, such as the fact that the administrator is upset about the titular murder mainly because it threatens his product line. Some invocations of these themes are more subtle, such as the fact that everyone calls the murder victim Halcyon Helen instead of her real name, Ruth Bellamy. This gives the impression that the people of Eridanos see Ruth mainly as a marketable character rather than a human being. And then there are the mysterious parasites, which induce an overwhelming sense of happiness within their victims. Those infected by the parasite don unsettlingly wide grins, and they advertise products to the player with an uncanny degree of enthusiasm. This behavior echoes the overly enthusiastic actors found in many real-life advertisements, and the choice to use parasites as the cause of this unsettling demeanor conveys the idea that the personas people don when they partake in corporate advertisements are inherently fake and unnatural. The ways in which Murder on Eridanos explores and conveys its themes are extremely clever, and it is evident that a great deal of work went into making the expansion as thematically cohesive as possible.
In terms of gameplay, Murder on Eridanos mostly focuses on dialogue trees and exploration rather than combat. This is not to say that combat is uncommon, but the expansion’s most interesting player-driven choices and gameplay segments are found within its exploration and conversational elements, which was ultimately for the best. The writing is where The Outer Worlds shines the most, so it is fortunate that the expansion features abundant dialogue options and lines that are compelling and often humorous. The combat in The Outer Worlds is not necessarily bad, but it is fairly basic and by-the-numbers, and the expansion does little to change this. The DLC could have added more engaging enemy designs and gimmicks to help make combat more meaningful, but it is understandable that Obsidian chose not to shake the foundation of the gameplay too much.
The lack of major gameplay improvements in the DLC also extends to the exploration, which is one of its major missed opportunities. Just like in the main game, almost every objective is identified by a waypoint marker, which means that required exploration mostly amounts to mindlessly trekking to the marker’s precise location. Once again, it is understandable that Obsidian would want to keep the waypoint markers since the main game conditions players to rely on them, but it remains disappointing nonetheless, and the issue is made even worse through the inclusion of the discrepancy amplifier. This tool allows players to scan for clues within the environment, which not only fits the murder mystery theme but also presents interesting gameplay possibilities. Instead of using waypoint markers, the game could have instead required players to survey their surroundings using the amplifier to find their way forward, which would test players’ spatial awareness and knowledge of the environment. Unfortunately, nearly every quest-critical clue is indicated by a waypoint marker, which makes the amplifier feel like little more than a novelty.
Despite some missed potential, Murder on Eridanos really is an excellent addition to The Outer Worlds and a perfect way to conclude its short line of DLC. It may not meaningfully test players’ exploration and combat skills, but it remains a compelling mystery to unravel.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows 10 PC